News you may have missed #726

Barbara Annette RobbinsBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Portrait of first female CIA officer to die in line of duty. In 1965, a 21-year-old American woman, Barbara Annette Robbins (photo), was among the victims of a car bombing at the US Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. Washington said she was a diplomat. But, at a ceremony last year, the CIA admitted she was an employee of the Agency. This makes her the first woman at the male-dominated CIA killed in the line of duty. She is also the youngest CIA employee ever killed. And she appears to be the first American woman to die in the Vietnam War. The Washington Post has an interesting article about her short life and career.
►►US Jewish leader says release of Israeli spy Pollard ‘inevitable’. The release of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a US prison for spying on the US for Israel, is “inevitable” and could take place shortly on “technical grounds”, according to Jack Rosen, a prominent Jewish leader and supporter of US President Barack Obama. A New York City real estate executive who hosted Obama at his Upper East Side home for a Democratic Party fundraiser last November, Rosen said that “there are some technical reasons, I’m told, why [Pollard] will be released. I think there’s an inevitability to that happening”.
►►Senior reshuffle at South Korean spy agency. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reshuffled two top posts at South Korea’s main intelligence agency Monday in a shake-up that also affected five other vice-ministerial posts. Nam Joo-hong, a former well-known security scholar who has so far served as ambassador to Canada, was named the first deputy chief of the National Intelligence Service, while Cha Moon-hee, a veteran intelligence official, was tapped as the agency’s second deputy chief. The spy agency’s first and second deputy chiefs are in charge of its overseas and domestic operations, respectively.

Spy agencies scramble for clues after North Korean leader’s death

Even though rumors had been rife for quite some time about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s worsening health, his death startled intelligence agencies the world over. In typical fashion, North Korean state media announced yesterday that “the dear leader” had died on Saturday onboard a train during one of his usual field trips, “due to immense mental and physical strain caused by his […] building of a thriving nation”. A period of national mourning has been declared in the country until December 29. In the hours following the startling announcement, which Time magazine dubbed “a nightmare before Christmas”, no unusual activity was observed in the North, while early Monday reports from North Korean capital Pyongyang stated that traffic was “moving as usual”. Moreover, despite longstanding rumors about Kim Jong Il’s ill health, few intelligence analysts in South Korea, Japan, or the United States have been observing overt signs of political instability, or a leadership crisis. However, despite the apparent calm in the North, intelligence agencies around the world have gone on high alert, led by those in South Korea, which has remained technically at war with the North since 1950.  South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reportedly placed the country’s military on emergency alert on Sunday, and has ordered government officials to remain in capital Seoul and “maintain emergency contact” with their office staff. French sources said that one of the first outcomes of an emergency National Security Council meeting that took place in Seoul on Sunday was to request that the American Pentagon, which maintains nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, steps up aerial surveillance over the North. Japan has also stepped up its intelligence-gathering operations in North Korea, and its Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, instructed his government to “closely share information” on North Korea with the United States, South Korea, and —notably— China. Read more of this post

High-level spy-ring arrests send shockwaves in S. Korea

Lim Chae-jung

Lim Chae-jung

South Korean prosecutors have indicted or are questioning dozens of alleged members of a North Korean spy ring, in what is said to be the country’s largest espionage case in over a decade. Seoul’s political establishment has been rocked by the espionage scandal, which allegedly involves several trade unionists, academics, and at least ten members of the country’s opposition Democratic Party. According to security officials, the suspects were members of an underground organization called Wangjaesan, after Mount Wangjae which is a revered national monument in North Korea. The official indictment claims that Wangjaesan was handled by operatives of Office 225 of the North Korean Workers’ Party Korea, which is tasked with overseeing the activities of sleeper agents operating in South Korea. The organization was allegedly headed by a man identified only as ‘Kim’, who owned a South Korean electronics import-export company, and routinely traveled to China and Japan, where he purportedly met his North Korean handlers. Aside from ‘Kim’, South Korean counterintelligence investigators are reportedly questioning close to ten senior members of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, several academics, as well as at least a dozen opposition political figures. Among the latter are members of South Korea’s leftwing Democratic Labor Party, widely considered as the political wing for the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Read more of this post

South Korean spy reportedly expelled from Libya

Seal of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea

NIS seal

Libya has expelled a South Korean intelligence officer and has shut down its mission in Seoul, according to South Korean diplomatic sources. The unnamed officer, who was expelled by the Libyans on June 18, is reportedly a member of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service who was stationed in the Libyan capital Tripoli. He was arrested in early June, after having been kept under surveillance for three months by Libyan counterintelligence officers. During that period, he was reportedly photographed in the act of bribing a Libyan intelligence officer. Some reports suggest that the expelled spy attempted to collect intelligence on Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, his family and senior Libyan government members. Other sources allege that he was gathering information on defense industry contacts between Libya and North Korea. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0175

  • South Korean spy agency now regards North as ‘international affairs’. The Seoul-based National Intelligence Service (NIS) has relocated its unit that monitors North Korea under a department dealing with international affairs. The change, described as a “paradigm shift” by one South Korean official, apparently reflects President Lee Myung-bak’s view that the North Korean issue should be dealt more “from the international geopolitical perspective”.
  • Robbery of S. African intel agent was planned, say officials. The robbery by five men of a woman said to be an agent of South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency “was conducted as though it was very well planned”, according to police.
  • Interview with ex-West German spy master. Radio France Internationale has aired an interview with Hans-Georg Wieck, chief of the West German Secret Service (BND) between 1985 and 1990. Among other things, Wieck claims that BND had “well-placed” agents in East Germany, as well as in spy services of other communist, including the KGB.

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News you may have missed #0076

  • Revealing CIA report published today. The CIA is expected to come under some of its toughest scrutiny for years, after the publication today of a report detailing the agency’s use of mock executions, and the threatening of detainees with power drills and guns during interrogations.
  • North Korean spy director meets South Korean officials. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met a delegation of visiting North Korean officials on Sunday, including Kim Yang Gon who heads the United Front Department (UFD), an intelligence agency under the Korean Worker’s Party (KWP) of the DPRK.
  • Changes imminent at South African spy agency. The administration of President Jacob Zuma intends to move to restructure South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the country’s primary domestic spy organization. In July, a former member of South Africa’s ministerial Review Commission on Intelligence warned that a steadily declining culture of accountability in the country’s spy services is threatening the country’s constitutional order.

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